I recently bought an apartment. A real estate agent made the initial contact between the contractor and myself but she was never available to help with subsequent issues when I needed her. Months after the sale went through, she contacted me and said she had heard that I had eventually bought the apartment and wants her commission. I was shocked to hear her claim, as I was extremely unhappy with her poor service as an agent. I had expected the agent to help with financial negotiations.
She said that I had verbally agreed to 1% and that her husband, who was there at the time, would back her up on this point. I remember the conversation slightly differently: I recall her asking for 1.5% and my not agreeing to that amount. Nor do I remember agreeing to 1%, but it is possible.
I checked around and found that the rates for real estate agents are not uniform. Apparently they vary from agent to agent and depend on the bargaining skills of the buyers. Other buyers in the same project used agents who are not more experienced or significantly better than the one I used. The commissions ranged between 0.5% and 2%. Many people paid 1%.
How much do I have to pay, if anything?
The fundamental question is this: Did she provide the service that she said she would?
You say you are extremely unhappy with her service. Does that mean that she did the minimal amount of work that entitles her to compensation—perhaps to an unprofessionally low standard but still within reason—or do you mean that it was substandard and you feel she does not deserve anything?
An agent does not have to do much to be entitled to something. As long as she makes contact between two people who then conclude a transaction that would never have taken place otherwise, she has done quite a lot. She deserves something for that—the minimum amount an agent normally gets. For purposes of discussion, let’s call that 0.7%.
Now she is claiming 1% and you are unsure about the extra 0.3%. That makes you amodeh bemiktzas, meaning you admit that you owe 0.7% and are unsure about the balance. Normally, when a person admits to part of the claim, he takes an oath denying the balance. Since you would never take such an oath (since you might have agreed to that amount), you have to pay the balance. In other words, you have to pay the full 1%.